What’s In My Mailbox | Stewarding monthly and sponsorship donors

April 12, 2017

If your organisation has a monthly giving program in place — or a sponsorship program — what steps are you taking in stewarding your donors?

I actually get this question a lot. Because while your monthly donors may not fall into the category of “major gift donor” (although one of our SDS members has a monthly donor who gives over $1000 a month), they do fall into the category of “loyal donor,” and that’s vital. They’re committed to your mission, they’ve consistently communicated their commitment, and you need to be letting them know, frequently and with utmost gratitude, that they matter.

Lisa Sargent, in addition to being my friend, is my go-to donor retention expert, so I emailed her to pick her brain on the subject of monthly donors. I’ve posted her golden nuggets of wisdom below…

Some “best practices” I’d recommend based on direct experience and personal research:

1.) Don’t stop communicating (read as: asking). When donors commit to monthly giving, they somehow enter a kind of donor communications wasteland (at one organization I know of, they actually were taken off ALL mailing lists, for fear that if a stray Ask crept in, mutiny would follow… when in fact, the opposite is true: relevant, regular well-crafted asks have been shown to increase engagement). To steward sustainers, you can and should keep sending appeals (easy to modify and acknowledge their regular giving status) — at one organization, they would simply have me remove the hard Asks, add a very soft Ask with no amounts, and add several thank-yous for donors’ steady support. It worked well.

Another way to look at Asks: let’s say I’m a monthly giver, and your organization has an emergency. As one of your most committed supporters, I’d welcome a chance to help out, but if you don’t give me that chance, you won’t get the gift. Capiche?

You should also offer the chance to upgrade monthly giving amount…and don’t forget bequest appeals!

2.) Send them special versions of your regular communications. One of my clients encloses a one-sheet note from the president especially for monthlies and majors along with the quarterly newsletter. Of course, it’s labeled as such: President’s Report for Major Donors and Name-of-Giving Club of CharityName. The letter shares “inside” info — including stuff like how the builder walked off the job of a capital campaign project leading to a delay, etc. — and it also says thank you. A lot.

3.) Periodically offer them special opportunities: events, guided tours, president’s breakfasts, mentoring opportunities etc. And make it very clear that this is an exclusive event. I’ve done this with more than one client.

4.) Send special thank yous. One of my past clients had published a number of great coffee table books. They would send surplus editions as thank yous to loyal/recurring/major donors during the holidays.

5.) Remember to have in place routine communications like renewals, cancellations, tax summaries, etc. Good donor stewardship means following up with a sustainer if their credit card expires, or they suspend payment. Maybe, for example, they’d simply prefer to take 1 or 2 months off each year instead of canceling altogether — but if you have no follow-up in place, you’ll never know.

And now, without further ado, I present to you a glowing example of sponsorship stewardship, and it comes from Brittany’s Hope, an organisation near and dear to my heart. It is handwritten, personal, and speaks for itself. And, like their communications consistently do, it speaks directly to the donor! Take a look…

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa Niemuth April 13, 2017 at 10:39 am

Thank you for including this topic in your mailbox today. It was very helpful and affirmed that we are on track with some of these best practices.

Kathleen June 15, 2017 at 1:19 pm

I do think, like always though, you have to know your donors. We did many of the ideas suggested in the article regarding a segmented letter to our recurring donor with a softer ask but then we got feedback from enough of our monthly donors that they did not want these extra fundraising letters. We’ve decided to only send them one direct mail fundraising letter a year as a middle ground approach. They also get a special e-newsletter each quarter and all of our other e-communications so there are plenty of other “softer” opportunities to ask and give. And we’ve done special thank-you only mailings before too.

Pamela Grow June 16, 2017 at 8:43 am

Thanks so much for this reminder, Kathleen. As you know, I admire your work tremendously. The more we incorporate feedback into our communications — from the thank you phone calls, to website feedback widgets, to consistent surveying, to requests for communications preferences — the more we get to know our donors and are better able to plan and grow the relationship.

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: